Child labour, according to the International Labour Organisation, is a term that refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. For the vast majority of children who were in institutional care in the twentieth century, working in the Home was part of daily life. For many people in 'care', this work took the form of demanding physical labour, for no payment, and at the expense of their schooling or their vocational training. Children who were boarded out or placed in foster care were also required to work in private homes - in many submissions to the Forgotten Australians inquiry, people described feeling like a 'slave'.
As early as 1914, excessive labour required from service children was a matter of concern to Boarding Out Committees:
The Committee commented that service children should be visited as regularly as other children boarded out by the State, as reports are received about the long hours worked on farms…(Minutes of the Perth and District Boarding Out Committee, 4 August 1914)
The issue of 'stolen wages' has received some attention in Australia, however this has so far been confined to wages that were not rightly paid to Indigenous people. A Western Australian government taskforce investigated this issue in 2007, and the Stolen Wages Reparation Scheme was established in WA in 2012.
There were no recommendations in the Forgotten Australians report relating to unpaid monies for children and young people who worked in institutions where they were in care, or who were under employment contracts while wards of the state.
Sources used to compile this entry: Care for Children - Committees (Boarding Out Committee (Perth and District)) - Agendas, Minutes and Working Papers [Document], Date: 25 August 1908 - 19 May 1936; O'Neill, Cate, 'Child Labour', in Find & Connect web resource, Find & Connect web resource project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2012, http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/australia/biogs/FE00100b.htm.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill and Debra Rosser
Created: 22 October 2012, Last modified: 2 March 2015